On April 2nd, 2021 skip, Ezra and I stayed in Patillas, Puerto Rico, on the side of a mountain at an amazing Airbnb. The host at the Airbnb we stayed at recommended hiking to El Charco Azul within the Carite forest.
This 8–10-foot waterfall has a 30–40-foot watering hole about a 20-minute drive from Lechonarias in the Guavate region of Cayey. Plus, a hike that is less than a mile round trip, with only an elevation gain of 32 feet.
El Charco Azul means Blue pond in English, which is precisely what it is. The lake was crystal clear, reflecting off the blue sky, making it a deep dark blue color. The mountain water was so refreshing and a nice break from the salty ocean.
The watering hole is not deep along the edge nor towards the river outlet. Our 19-month-old was able to walk around safely and somewhat freely. The middle of the lake is at least 15 feet deep, with a boulder that the locals regularly jump off. We highly recommend only jumping off if you are experienced with jumping into bodies of water and know where to jump.
Unfortunately, this popular hangout spot for the locals was destroyed by Hurricane Maria, and gangs have now taken over the area. There used to be a gate that was only open during certain times of the day, the trail was maintained very well on pavement, and there used to be restrooms and covered seating to relax and spend the day under. This not the case anymore. You now must park across the street, free to use, and enter the gate that never shuts. The trail is not maintained nor clean. The path is on pavement that has been destroyed, and nature is taking over.
There is more trash along the trail than I have ever seen before. There are trash cans along the way, but they are completely full, and waste is falling out. Please practice pack it in, pack it out. It is not a long hike. There is no reason people cannot carry out their trash and dispose of their waste correctly. Please click HERE to read about the Leave no Trace Project.
There are no longer any restrooms near or on the trail, they were damaged in the hurricane, and gangs have gone in and completely destroyed them. DO NOT USE THEM. This a bustling and crowded area, so we recommend using the restroom before making your way up the windy road into the jungle.
Directions to El Charco Azul
From San Juan, take Route 18/52 south to exit 32 (the Guavate exit) to Route 184.
Follow Route 184 through Guavate and the forest for 15 minutes or so.
Note- you will need to stay on RT 184, kind of a left turn at the intersection with Rt 179.
Continue on RT 184 until you get to the Charco Azul Recreation Area at KM 17.8 (it is marked).
Park in the lot and walk across the street
Note the GPS will try to take you through the gate with your vehicle. Park across the street and walk across, do not drive down into the trail.
The trail to the swimming hole is marked very well on pavement and dirt. The pavement is slowly being taken over by nature. It is not a smooth path, and the pavement is cracking into pieces. There are bridges across the rivers, so you will not have to jump over anything nor get wet. Be careful of your footing and surroundings. One day nature will take it over the trail entirely and claim what is rightfully hers. This trail was straightforward to make and family-friendly, but we would not recommend taking a stroller or wagon on the course unless it is meant to be taken off the road.